If you’re already worn-out by the 2021 holiday season (like we are,) then here’s an experience that might be right up your alley. Check out the press release for The Krampus Tale below. It’s an experience that’s just opened and runs through the top of 2022. We’ll be there next weekend to try it out ourselves!
Hoof-Prints On History: A Krampus Tale
This season, an old friend comes to visit in a whole new way. Krampus is in town!
For the first time, you humans – naughty and nice – have a chance to win over the
TRUE authority on holiday justice. For the wise, debonair Krampus has a secret plan to show you he is not so bad – and has, in fact, been judged unjustly. He will orchestrate a GRAND UNSMEARING campaign, bringing takeaway treats and entertainment, including lashings and chain knotting demonstrations original song craft and puppetry arts.
You’ll be enthralled for over four hours nearly thirty minutes by the campaign that critics are calling “Twas the Night Before Christmas x 100” and “The gravitas, humor, and poetics of Shakespeare’s entire oeuvre all at once!” It’s sure to add a new tale to your family’s holiday tradition, warming your soul with the inspiration of the season as it’s truly meant to be!
With development assistance from a real human child, this is Krampus’s “best” attempt to tell his story, clearing his name once and for all. Have a Ho-Ho-Horrible holiday with us!
Dates: Generally, Thursdays-Sundays in December (Full list of dates: December 4-5,
December 9-12, December 16-19, December 23, 26, 30, January 1-2)
Notes: Kid Friendly, Outdoor venue (rain or shine), Guests required to wear masks, Wheelchair accessible.
Who: Hoof-Prints on History is conceived by Stephanie Hyden, written and directed by David Ruzicka, and features Darren Herczeg and Stephanie Hyden. Eric Vosmeier and The Bezark Company serve as producers. Production design by Stephanie Hyden. Lighting Design by Ian Momii.
I am deep in the bowels of a mausoleum, my eyes locked behind a blindfold and my gloved hands shoved deep inside something squishy and very wet. (Is it intestines? The chest cavity?) I strain to figure out what the noises in front of me might mean. (Is that ripping skin? Is that a bunsen burner turning on?) All I know for certain is that I am lost in the memories of the true creator of all of this, Mary Shelley. And I fear there is much more horror yet to come for it’s alive.
It’s Alive advertises itself as a “Frankenstein intimate immersive experience.” That description is both accurate and a vast understatement for one of my favorite experiences this Halloween. It’s Alive is far more than a Frankenstein story. It is the story of how Frankenstein came to be. It is the story of why Mary Shelley felt compelled to write about a mad scientist and his poor creation. Best of all, it is a fantastic immersive experience with so many characters and storylines that multiple viewings still won’t catch everything.
It’s Alive begins at the moment Mary Shelley learns of her husband’s death from a boating accident. Because of plague fears at the time, Percy Shelley’s body is cremated. All Mary Shelley receives to bury is Percy’s heart which refused to burn. With that startling piece of emotional imagery in her hands, (more startling still because it’s an actual historical fact,) Mary begins to mourn.
But it’s far more than her husband she grieves for, and It’s Alive delves into the full weight of both Mary and Percy’s histories. Audiences break apart and weave together as they traverse the massive Mountain View Mausoleum, interacting with everyone involved in the creation of Frankenstein. Mary’s sisters whisk individual members off to have a private scene in the darkness. A pair of the audience digs up body parts by a grave outside. A handful spies on Dr. Polidori professing his love to a married woman. For two hours, the show weaves its audience in and out of moments of these peoples’ lives in a way that feels like a combination of ghost story and gothic ballet. By its completion, each audience member will understand exactly why Mary’s tears fall so deeply at yet another moment of grief.
It’s Alive works on every level possible. The writing (from John Armstrong and Devon Armstrong) perfectly combines the style of Shelley and Byron’s poetry and Mary’s novel. And yet, it remains very accessible for modern audiences thanks to director Devon Armstrong’s very smart staging and choices for when to have characters directly interact with audiences. Moreover, a show like this requires exceptional choreographing of its audience so that each member gets a full experience with no wasted time. The first version of this show at the Heritage Center in Los Angeles did this well; this version has perfected that timing into an art form. I was brought through nearly every corner and floor of the mausoleum and never did I feel like I was waiting for anything or anyone.
The cast of It’s Alive also does a stellar job throughout, with every actor working in top form to bring these historical figures to life. Chanel Castañeda effortlessly shifts between the true happiness of Mary in love to the heart-wrenching grief of her loss and captures both perfectly. Jahnavi Alyssa’s portrayal of Claire Clairemont displayed raw grief in such a visceral way it is spellbinding. The deeply sad story of Harriet Shelley (Percy’s first wife) gets an equally (and wonderfully) sad evisceration from Rachel Levy. Alec Gaylord as Percy and James Fowler as Byron capture the egocentrism of those poets and their male-centric “free love” attitudes so well it made me angry at them. Lulu Royce’s version of Fanny was the living embodiment of lost innocence and nearly impossible to watch. Even the one fictional character roaming this performance, Dr. Frankenstein himself, was horrifically presented by Robert Schaefer in a wonderfully dark, twisted persona that drags people off to do monstrous things.
It’s Alive is the perfect example of great immersive theater. It brings a well-crafted and well-executed show to a wonderful location. It imbues the production with a talented cast that knows how to draw their audience ever deeper into their tale. One can hope that shows like these might even become a holiday tradition, for you could do no better for a Halloween night than fall into this exploration of the truth behind the fiction of Frankenstein. For as many of the characters here say, without these people and the life they gave Mary Shelley, the creation would never have been born.
It’s Alive has four more shows this weekend, but only the Saturday at 9PM show has tickets remaining. Tickets are $60 and can be found here. Contact the organizers for any waiting list if you want to try another slot.
They are calling me again. I’ve found myself tasked with absolute control over two different women’s lives. I get to decide what happens to their entire future existence in one instant. It’s a weighty decision on my shoulders and right now, I only know one thing:
I don’t see any good answer.
As the pandemic rolls on, immersive creators continue to experiment with new ways to deliver stories. Candle House Collective created an entire program for such experiments with their FireStarter Initiative. This initiative allows new creators to offer narratives through the CHC site that can give audiences something new and exciting to enjoy.
Recently, the FireStarter Initiative brought audiences the show Lovers Anonymous. This show centers around a strange little place call “Amet”. There’s even a wonderfully retro introduction video created by Amet’s founder, Terence Abernathy. It explains Amet and that you are here because you are an American who has volunteered to help its society. But so many questions remain. Is Amet a city? A cult? A self-governing collective that somehow carved out part of Alaska?
Even stranger, check out the above image from that intro video. In Amet, “Love” is a sign of mental illness and that’s where you come into play. Since Americans do not recognize love as dangerous, we are better suited to decide the fate of two women who have fallen in love. To make that decision, the audience member will get to speak to both of them individually and together.
Lovers Anonymous echoes many of Candle House Collective’s previous audio-only immersive experiences. Candle House Collective specializes in over-the-phone immersive theatrical performances. They put audience members into slightly different realities with people who feel familiar and circumstances that feel terrifyingly unique. Lovers Anonymous thematically fits very well into that sort of show idea.
At the same time, the show also branches into its own territory in several ways. This experience uses multiple forms of technology beyond just audio. It includes audio, text, video calls and even PowerPoint presentations shared from various computers. Each type of technology matches the narrative moment where it appears perfectly. The emotional Lilli wants to see you as she chats while the cerebral Chantal prefers to organize her thoughts beforehand. I have seen literally dozens of various virtual remote shows in the last 16 months and I was still pleased and surprised by this show. Lovers Anonymous really understands how to use technology in a way most immersive shows fail to grasp.
What caught me the most off-guard, however, was how upset this show made me emotionally–in all the right ways. Because of the distancing aspect of technology, most virtual shows have a hard time creating truly deep emotional investment in their audience. It takes just the right combination of story, performance and understanding of how people interact over technology to bridge that gap. Lovers Anonymous reaches right through its technological lines and ripped my heart from my chest.
Its two main women felt entirely real. They each had desires and fears, wants and worries, and I understood it all. It made the decision I ultimately had to make one that hurt almost as much as decisions I have made in my own life. Two entirely fictional characters asked me to choose their future and it broke my heart to do so. Lovers Anonymous is that good a show.
Everything about Lovers Anonymous compels for me. Its design is impeccable. Its use of technology works superbly. Teagen Earley and LaKecia Harris bring such real life to their main women couple of Lilli and Chantal that I honestly wished they were real so I could keep talking to them for years to come. Marvin Bell brought a different but equally real energy as Chantal’s father who had a real bone to pick with America for very good reasons. Sar Cohen and William Youmans brought the strangeness of Amet to life so quickly and efficiently that I also wished Amet was real because I would definitely want to visit and understand what the heck was really going on there. In fact, I hope the creators contemplate bringing that community back for another, different tale. I would love to learn more about the place that hates love.
Lovers Anonymous shows exactly how compelling immersive can be even across technology. It shows that with planning and a true understanding of how we access the modern world, even the technological barrier cannot stop real moments of interaction between characters and audience. The greatest compliment I can give is that I hope Lovers Anonymous returns once more so that other audience members can experience it.
Equally, I hope Candle House Collective continues to use its FireStarter Initiative to bring new creators and experiences to the world. If Lovers Anonymous is what that initiative can help create, I hope they keep starting fires for a long time to come.
Candle House Collective is busy working on their new shows. You can learn more about their company and join their mailing list here.
I sit in a chair in my home with one thought running through my head: I am terrified. There are visitors here that I did not invite and I would love for them to be gone. But I can hear one of them talking to my roommate and the other one is whispering right in my ear and they have no intention of departing. Not while I’m still alive, anyway. Darkfield Radio has done it again.
Darkfield Radio was originally created in the UK as a collection of multi-sensory audio experiences in complete darkness. Now, creative directors and Darkfield founders Glen Neath and David Rosenberg have turned their audio narrative skills into a remote experience. Audience members download the Darkfield Radio app onto their phone, put on headphones or earbuds and the performances stream directly into their ears.
Darkfield Radio currently has three different tales that audiences can experience. Two of them (“Double” and “Visitors”) are made for two audience members to experience in the same room at the same time. The final show, “Eternal,” is designed for one person lying in their bed. Each of these tales brings a different type of horror to its audience and they are work very, very well.
“Double” begins as a discussion about the Capgras delusion, a real condition where a person believes someone close to them has been replaced by a dark, evil version. That delusion instantly becomes something to worry about given that you listen to this tale with someone you know (and presumably care about) sitting directly across from you. Have they been replaced? Are they worried that you have been? An incredible performance from Chris Brett Bailey only adds to the terror in the latter half of the narrative. He shifts the story in a subtle way and it is both thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time.
“Eternal”, the solo show, uses the novel Dracula as inspiration for an intimate show that is all the more terrifying because you experience it lying down. The binaural audio allows Lloyd Hutchinson to get really close to you as he creates a looping narrative that is compelling, dark and nerve-wracking. I had never had goose bumps from having someone just speak to me–until this show.
For me, the true star of these tales is the show “Visitors.” Two audience members are asked to sit in a very specific way for this show. Then the horror begins as two visitors arrive who are different, unnerving and worst of all, persistant. Visitors is one of the most uncomfortable 20 minutes I have ever experienced and I mean that as a tremendous compliment. Sonya Seva and Greer Dale-Foulkes as the two visitors do an absolutely fantastic job in creating a tense, creepy atmosphere. They hit just the right balance between their calm demeanors and the absolute nightmare of what they want to do with you. Everything about this show works equally well. Glen Neath’s script is perfectly vague, offering just enough information to allow your own mind to fill in the rest. Neath and David Rosenberg’s direction shows they know exactly how to increase the tension throughout the tale. The binaural audio is so expertly created I literally thought something had happened in my home that only happened in my ears. It is so good I still think it might have been real.
Darkfield Radio is a fantastic set of audio horror experiences. Each one of their shows builds tension and psychological horror in different ways and they are all very good at what they want to do. Best of all, the experiences are all performed each night which allows audiences to spend an evening lost in Darkfield’s world. Darkfied Radio offers audiences the perfect ratio of terror and discomfort for the modern age. Perhaps the best compliment I can give Darkfield Radio is this: I want them to make so many, many more of these so I can come back to their terrifying world again and again. Do yourself a favor and tune in to Darkfield Radio as quickly as you can. Just be ready to have a hard time sleeping after you do.
Darkfield Radio has ongoing performances of each of their three shows for various countries and timezones. Tickets for every country and timezone can be found here.
In the US, the shows run Tues, Thurs and Sat nights through April 29th, with two timeframes based on Eastern and Pacific timezones. Tickets run $7.50/partipant for each show.
Through a Zoom screen, I talk to an entity whose name perfectly describes what we are both doing. We are building a narrative, piece by piece, centered on a penguin named Chester. Now, as I write this review, I am not certain why that is his name. But I chose the name myself and boy, did it make sense at the time. I guess that’s what happens in The Place You Once Forgot.
The Place You Once Forgot first appeared as a live performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. Once the pandemic hit, it came back during the fall of 2020 as an online performance (which is when I got the chance to see it). This weekend the show ends a second online run. If you have not yet experienced this charming solo dive into your own imagination, you should grab a slot before it evaporates into the same ethereal realm where the show itself lives.
Consisting of 2 phone calls and 2 Zoom interactive scenes, The Place You Once Forgot works very simply. In fact, from both the structural and technical aspects, the show comes across as basic in its nature. But the simplicity of the design and technology work as great strengths for this show. You see, the production team at Ladybug & Leviathan want nothing to get in the way of the true focus of the show: you.
You are the centerpiece of this experience. You and that soft, sweet place in your creative mind that you many of us have forgotten, especially at the tail end of the lost year 2020. Everything about this show focuses on you. Terence Leclere’s phone calls bring your attention on yourself and how you feel, readying you for what is to come. The Story (played in sweet, calm tones by Karlie Blair) leads you to creating a story that could have come directly from you as 8 or 10 years old. Megan Combes as The Key charmingly coaxes you into drawing to your best ability. In my case, such drawing is inevitably terrible–and yet with Megan, I was relaxed enough to get out of my own critical mind.
It is that last sentence that makes this show work for me beautifully. As adults, we have the tendency to be ever so critical of ourselves. This was wrong. That could have been better. What were we thinking? For just a few minutes, The Place You Once Forgot breaks through that noise. By having three individuals legitimately care about you, the world quiets. We can think and imagine and draw and relax. By letting us be ourselves, The Place You Once Forgot brings us right back to that place and helps us remember it still exists. In the chaos of the world, such a reminder is worth its weight in charm and joy.
The Place You Once Forgot has two more nights of performances on April 9 and April 10. Tickets run $27 and can be found here.
I may be sitting in front of my computer in the real world, but in my mind I am lost in a story that flows through space and time and centers on a medicinal recipe turned into a massive corporation fortune. Rio Records is definitely a trip to be on…
… and yours will be entirely different.
In our current crisis era, those of us who love and/or create immersive entertainment have lost one of the great elements of the art. We can’t physically experience things. We can’t find ourselves in unique locations or strange circumstances in the same way as before. Multiple companies have attempted to recreate that sense of ‘being somewhere’ with greater or lesser success. Based on my journey through 13Exp’s newest creation, Rio Records accomplishes what few shows I’ve seen recently have done. It transports me to somewhere else.
On a purely technical level, the show works as many other remote interactive and immersive shows do. Audience members use the internet in two ways during the 80-minute show, through a custom-built interactive opening site and through a later Zoom call. Cell phones can also be part of the experience. Both live and pre-recorded elements add to the narrative each audience member enjoys.
On the design side, the show represents the work of over 70 artists that creates a tapestry focusing on the past, present and future of the LA River. Over 700+ minutes of content has been created, allowing a show that has multiple different story paths that weave in and out of each other. It’s a design that hopes audiences will return more than once to the experience as each trip they can follow an entirely different path through the show. Rio Records also adds a civic-minded element through raising both awareness and funds to help revitalize the LA River in the near future.
In the experience, however, Rio Records explodes beyond its setup. It becomes something far, far more interesting.
My particular journey focused on an indigenous medical recipe stolen from a housekeeper by her employer. That employer then turned that recipe into a fortune, none of which was shared with the person it was stolen from or her family. I was treated to multiple forms of entertainment including comic books, live phone calls, hacked messages, recorded video and live streaming moments. The variation and approach of the artists towards the subject matter excited me and occasionally moved me emotionally.
The show allows each audience member to choose their path forward multiple times during the show, with each choice leading to a different outcome in terms of both art and narrative. For some audience members, this sheer open nature may be intimidating or confusing. But I chose to follow the request of the LA River (yes, she is an actual character in the show) and let the experience flow over me. Whenever I had the chance to make a choice, I made it instinctively and let the story build in its own time. By letting myself simply enjoy each moment as it came, I quickly lost my sense of being in my own home and watching through a computer screen. Instead, I found myself in an almost heightened state, relishing each element for its own sake and as it added to the story. I highly recommend other audience members approaching the show in the same manner.
Unfortunately, the show does not succeed on all fronts. In its final segment, audience members join a Zoom call that happens narratively in the future. I understand the goal of this segment, which is to suggest both challenges and potential solutions for the LA River as we move through the 21st century. The execution of this goal feels problematic. First, the audience is asked for their input in choosing appropriate solutions for the river. We get too little time and information about those solutions to give that input. Second, brief snippets of narrative conflict (such as someone who might have a conflict of interest) feel like they should be able to be explored but cannot be because the show is nearly over. This end segment feels rushed and tacked onto the experience in order to recognize the real importance of the LA River to Los Angeles as a whole. While the idea may be noble, this segment could easily have been an entire show on its own and probably would work far better as one. Instead it drags down the beautiful flow of the rest of the show into a strange, confusing end.
Rio Records is a show that I sincerely hope people turn out to experience in its final weekend. Beautiful and elegant in so many ways, Rio Records offers a respite from shows that lock us behind our screens. If you let it wash over you, the show can float you into a story you choose from moment to moment. It can connect you to the incredible work of current artists and to stories based on the history of one of Los Angeles’ important elements. I recommend this experience as something different and strange and absolutely worth your evening.
Rio Records has four more performances through this Sunday, February 7. Tickets run from $25-40 and can be found here.
There’s a classic bit of folklore that talks about wandering too far into the forest on the wrong sort of night. One wrong move, the lore says, and you might just find yourself taken by the fae. You can end up lost in the darkness of their realm for anywhere from one night to forever. Only the luckiest humans find their way back. Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective
I’m about to find out for myself. Because this time, they’ve taken me.
Ali Hass as “Harvest”
Don’t Follow The Lights is Mystic Ventures Collective’s newest online immersive sandbox show about one unlucky night in the realm of the faeries. It starts with a fun premise. The audience members have done the opposite of the show’s title and it’s up to them to figure out a way home. Through exploring the realm, interacting with its denizens and figuring out proper offerings for each faerie leader, audiences have a chance to succeed in finding their way home.
Or they can fail utterly, lost forever. Or they can find multiple different levels of great or terrible endings in between. The audience’s actions as a group make the final determination.
The shows uses a software program called Gather to create a faerie realm that looks like a video game from the original Nintendo Entertainment System era. Audience members move avatars throughout a map of the realm. When they get close to a character’s location of characters, they enter video chats reminiscent of Zoom with the ability to speak and hear each other. Conversations lead to secrets, clues or even solutions for what other characters need. Only through exploration and interaction can the audience find their path home.
Multiple interactive and theatre companies have started using Gather to create spaces where audiences can interact that attempt to mimic the idea of moving through a real space. The goal is to allow more fluid, dynamic conversations where audience members come and go as they wish. Don’t Follow The Lights succeeds in creating that sort of space as other shows using Gather have done.
Shelli Frey — “Decay”
However, if this all sounds like a complicated setup for an interactive online experience—it is. Any company using Gather needs to recognize that it isn’t necessarily intuitive, especially for those who didn’t grow up playing Final Fantasy or Chronotrigger. Helping audience members understand how they interact with this software—both in general and for this specific show—becomes an absolute necessity.
For the final dress rehearsal that I saw, that information wasn’t sufficient for many of the audience including myself. I saw multiple audience members blindly roaming the space, attempting to figure out what they were supposed to do or how they were supposed to interact at all. That lack of clarity impacted both how I experienced the show and what I was hearing from other audience members as it happened. I expect Mystic Ventures Collective to have made significant changes to their audience’s introduction into the show since that night. If not, such confusion may happen for other guests as well.
Joey Moore — “Raven”
That would be a shame, because there are some positives for this show as well. The actors were quite fun to play with, each of them having some clear goals that allowed for improvisation as they responded to audience members. Some of the actors were cold and aloof, such as Dana Soliman’s smart performance as “The Queen.”
Others were more unearthly, such as KC Hyland’s joyfully disruptive chaos as “Nettle.” And some were truly reminiscent of darker faerie tales, such as Shelli Frew’s whispered and torturous “Decay” and the constantly sharp hunger of Kate Martin’s “The Mermaid.” The actors deftly accomplish the spin into a realm of strange creatures and inhuman attitudes.
Kate Martin – “The Mermaid”
The general idea for the show itself works as well. Using a classic bit of folklore to weave this sort of immersive experience should be a lot of fun—and in this case, it often is quite enjoyable. Having guests work together towards an ending determined by their choices has great merit for creating a positive audience space, something we definitely need in the current isolation era.
The iteration of the show that I experienced simply needed more fine-tuning to truly shine in the way that I believe Scriptwriter and Producer Shelli Frew wants. A few tweaks (that I expect will have already happened by opening night) will go a long way in raising this show to its best version. If the audience’s choices will determine the ending, they need to have a clear idea of how to affect those choices. They need to understand the stakes, their options and at least the first stage of what they need to do to succeed.
After all, one of the impacts of making everything look like a video game is that it makes audience members want to “win.” I spent too long confused over my choices to feel like I was winning anything. Locations and characters changed as well during the experience. While this is true to the idea of a strange fae world, such changes were often hard to spot, making it even more harder to ‘solve’ the world. Some characters seemed to require specific things but were not always good at giving me clues as to what those things might be.
Worst of all, I wasted time retracing paths to figure out what I had missed, only to find that a second visit to the same character could generate different answers with the same questions. Such a reaction made it seem as though my actions were generating random outcomes, which seemed at odds with the goal of making my choices matter.
Again, I expect these hiccups to be ironed out when the show reaches its full potential. That’s the point Don’t Follow The Lights will be a show that audiences will be able to follow perfectly well. That’s the version that I wish I had experienced myself.
Don’t Follow The Lights brings a great premise to its audience. With strong acting from its entire team, the show offers audiences a fun take for the Halloween season. When their issues are solved, Mystic Ventures Collective’s show should be a great adventure for this year’s spooky season.
Don’t Follow The Lights has three more performances scheduled this weekend on 10/30 and 10/31. Tickets are $30 and the experience works best on a Google Chrome browser with a headset and microphone. Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective Don’t Follow The Lights Review Mystic Ventures Collective
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I am stalking a man and a woman as they enter a bedroom during a friends’ party. They start talking to each other, allowing me to sneak past the woman and focus on the man as I raise my bow and arrow. She says something cute and I fire an arrow of attraction right into the man’s chest. He reacts instantly, touching her hand as he tells her how funny she is.
I smile, too. I’m just doing my job.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Cupid? To be in charge of helping individual humans find love and human connection in its many forms and possibilities? If you have, then Spectacular Disaster Factory’s newest immersive creation Temp Cupid might be the experience for you. Temp Cupid places audience members in the role of being exactly what the title suggests: temp workers taking on the role of cupids for the night. It’s a highly interactive experience where each cupid uses a bow and arrow to make targets either like or dislikeother people around them in an effort to give each target some type of love before the night is over. It’s a production that combines aspects of improvisation and gaming to allow audiences to determine the outcome of each character’s relationships.
It’s a rather fun idea for a show. Participants are given a bow and arrow each and instructions that no character at the party they are entering can see or hear them. When participants shoot arrows at characters, they can increase or decrease how that character feels about another character by up to three steps (in each direction.) Finally, each Cupid is tasked with helping a specific character (including a cute dossier that gives a quick rundown on each one’s wants/likes.) The new Cupids are then unleashed upon the party, free to shoot (or not shoot) anyone at any time. They can talk to each other, team up with other cupids to create a specific goal or wreak havoc by sabotaging what other cupids are trying to do. Once they’re done impacting the characters however they want, a finale plays out where the outcome of those actions gets shown to the Cupids. It’s a fairly solid concept.
This is the type of experience that works well for audience members who are new to immersive shows as it does not demand much from participants other than understanding how the arrows work on the characters. That’s all a Cupid really can do to control anything within the show, since they cannot interact with anyone in any other way. For newer audience members, making the interaction simple and game-like can make this a really fun way of entering the immersive space.
For those who enjoy watching improvised interactions and are interested in seeing how changing someone’s like/dislike level will impact those interactions, this show also offers great potential fun. During my experience, I chose to partner up with other Cupids to make sure a specific couple ‘liked’ each other as much as possible. That decision meant that I followed that couple through most of the experience. Having the chance to be a fly on the wall and watching their relationship blossom in front of me was highly entertaining—as was fighting off the sudden attempt by other cupids to sabotage the relationship I’d spent time putting together. Just as the couple was becoming invested in each other, I became invested in holding them together against all the other Cupids.
It’s not a surprise that the interaction between characters is my favorite aspect of the show. The actors involved in the production are solid across the board. Casey Dean’s portrayal of Tracy is almost unbearably cute, even when responding to arrows that make her dislike someone. Orion Schwalm’s Jack is goofy and sincere, with just enough quirkiness to make him really believable and real when someone suddenly begins to like him. Tricia Fukuhara’s depiction of Audrey is almost heartbreaking in itsawkwardness. During my experience, there was a moment where an arrow derailed a friendship she was trying very hard to make happen. Her reaction to the emotional change was so painful it made me immediately shoot her with the arrow necessary to change that back. Ashley Busenlener has the emotional range to go very dark, as evidenced by a sudden change in emotions towards another character during my trip that became the most serious moment of the night. She played that moment exactly correctly. Kristofer Buxton’s eagerness as Clark is as amusing as his coldness when persuaded to dislike someone. He turns perfectly on or off, as the cupids demand. The best performance for me is Lena Valentine. She gives her character Jo a wonderful maturity that runs through whatever emotional alterations come from the arrows. Even when arrows give her rapid emotional shifts, she somehow makes each transition both natural and truly engaging. More than once, I stopped paying attention to the ‘game’ of shooting others just to watch a scene she was part of as it played out. She’s truly compelling. The greatest positive of this production is the exceptional choices in casting and their ability to handle their characters while being impacted with constant relationship changes in real time.
There are other aspects of the show that are less effective for me. The setup for the experience feels overly complicated and far too long. Each character has a specific color. Attraction is coded red and repulsion coded black. So each time a Cupid wants to alter a character’s feelings toward a second character, they have to find the arrow with that second character’s color code and then remember to use red or black, depending on their choice. It’s a setup that takes fifteen minutes to explain and, at least during my experience, still had audience members asking for clarification. While a production likes this clearly needs to have the ‘rules of the game’ laid out, I think this long an onboarding seems to work against the premise of having fun playing a cupid. It comes across as a lot of effort and learning before you can actually go have fun. If the Spectacular Disaster Factory chooses to remount this show again, perhaps they can find a way to streamline the rules into something that can be explained in 5 minutes. I think that would help make it even more of a good show for entry-level immersive audiences.
The show also feels too long. During my stint as a cupid, I noticed several players who got either bored with the premise or simply got tired of shooting arrows and were sitting down for the last 10 minutes of the experience. This may be a case of too many players per experience slot. Or perhaps the show is simply too long. Once again, if the show is remounted I think some effort at fine-tuning this could generate an even stronger experience. Showing the impact of arrows in mid-scenes as well as at the finale might help audience members stay more connected, for instance.
Overall, Temp Cupid is a fine show, with a lot of potential for audiences to have fun. For those who enjoy seeing their actions have impact on actors, this experience offers immediate gratification as each arrow generates an immediate response. And for those looking for a show that’s light and entertaining and designed simply for some fun, this is that kind of show. The flaws that exist are mostly ones that simply slow down the experience or aren’t holding everyone’s attention as strongly as one would like—all of which could easily be overcome in a remount. Honestly, I do hope they bring this show back again. Cupids may be most common during Valentine’s Day, but Temp Cupids are needed all year long.
Temp Cupid closed it’s initial run on February 16th, 2020. Make sure to follow Spectacular Disaster Factory on Instagram, Facebook, and at their website for remounts and new experiences throughout the year.
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Welcome to Eye on the Horizon, where we’ll share press releases and other announcements that we’re excited for.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce the return of the much beloved E3W Productions, who are bringing us another passionate look at intimate theatre with Where the Others Are, a two–audience member show that takes place in a vintage Airstream trailer. We are entirely too eager for this one.
Why not enjoy some choice quotes from our Editor inChief about prior E3W shows?
In Another Room 2017: “…they have done something truly remarkable: they have managed to capture a true and harrowing series of emotions without abandoning a dark undercurrent. Through a remarkable use of space, the ongoing and welcome use of musical cues for story beats, and strong acting, In Another Room provides an evocative and unique glimpse into tragedy. This is not a haunted house. This is a house that leaves you haunted.” Review at Haunting
In Another Room 2018: “The spaces E3W creates are so intricate that they exist in a perfect sense of hyper-reality; they are at once impossible and so, so real.” Review at Haunting
See the full details in the press release below!
Please visit E3W on their website or on Instagramfor more updates on Where the Others Are, and follow us here and on Instagram for more updates on evocative content you should keep your Eye On.
Please note: the link below will go live at 10am on 2/10/20
A desperate plea from an old friend brings you to the doorstep of her neglected trailer. She’s finally ready to leave her abusive husband, and she wants your help. But he may not be what he appears to be. And her problem may be beyond human comprehension.
‘Where the Others Are’ is the new site-specific immersive experience from E3W Productions, the team behind the acclaimed ‘In Another Room’ series. Now, E3W delivers its most intimate piece yet. You and one other person will be welcomed as guests into a 1980s Airstream, where something otherworldly is brewing between the couple who lives there. Step inside Ben and Maggie’s world and witness the unexplainable, as they confront questions of existence, connection, identity, and meaning—within themselves, within their marriage, and within the claustrophobic confines of their vintage RV.
While ‘Where the Others Are’ is not a horror experience, please be aware that there will be light physical contact, moments of complete darkness, frightening material, and adult content and themes.
Due to the nature of this show, audience mobility is required. Guests will be asked to sit, stand, walk, climb stairs, and enter tight spaces.
The exact location of the trailer will be sent to you on the day before your scheduled visit.
I’m waiting on a street corner, watching two men in kitschy pumpkin-sack masks gallop towards me. They wear shirts that say “10” and “31,” respectively, and grip my arms tightly as we walk down the street towards our destination. I gather that we’re trick-or-treating together, but none of the houses we pass seems just “right.” That is, of course, until we reach the last one. The one with the fog gently billowing out the front drive. I see a small figure kneeling on the ground and I squint to make it out, just as I realize my guides have vanished and I’m now here alone. The figure is a child, her long dark hair over her face, a dress so white it seems to glow. She’s drawing something on a sheet of paper on the ground. I take a breath and crouch down in front of her. “My name’s Mischief, what’s yours?” I answer her and she opens her mouth in a dramatic, overdrawn cackle. It unnerves me. She stops as abruptly as she started, and continues to draw, humming to herself. “Halloween is coming,” she mumbles, her eyes dark and hollow, and I open my mouth to speak just as a set of gentle, firm hands grip me from behind and hoist me back to my feet.
Witches. Three of them, their faces hidden from view, they take turns whirling me to face them. One of them dabs at my wrist with a wick soaked in perfume oil. It smells damp and sweet, like Fall. She asks me if I know about “Spook Shows,” the old take on haunted houses that challenged guests to only the bravest of guests. But it was a lie, in a sense. Nothing really scary ever happened at spook shows. They were all just a gimmick to get people to have fun. Another witch gently touches my face with a gloved hand and turns me towards her, putting a cup of warm liquid in my hand: apple cider. It’s perfect.
She tells me that even though they weren’t truly frightening, Spook Shows were eventually outlawed due to a series of unfortunate accidents. It wasn’t until year later that a young man with fond memories of the Spook Shows of his youth decided to recreate the festive scares. He called it The Autumn Experiment. But then he met a man who claimed he wanted to invest in the idea and…well…something went very wrong.
The witches all begin to chant in unison, closing in on me. Something about immersive theatre’s latest and greatest, monsters coming to life, participants being carried off into the darkness. The chanting dies out as there’s a tug at my sleeve. I look down to see the Mischief again, her eyes now wide black pools. I lean down to her and she hands me a drawing. It’s The Halloween Cowboy, drawn in the loving way only a child could, but he looks very sad.
She thrusts the page into my hand. “We weren’t supposed to meet this way,” she says. She tells me he, whoever he is, just wanted to make things like they were, to bring back something people loved. But it’s ruined now. Broken. Now she doesn’t know what happens next. No one does.
She tilts her head back and lets out that braying laugh again, cracking the misty air. All at once she stops and shoots her arm out towards the street I arrived from, one long finger extended. “Warn them. Warn your friends. Halloween is coming. HALLOWEEN IS COMING!” She shrieks and I swim my way back out to the street through the growing fog.
I inhale the cool air once back on the pavement, that damp, sweet smell still lingering on my skin. If Halloween is coming, I think, glancing back over my shoulder, I’ll be the first to say hello.
Halloween 2019 came, and went, but Halloween is never over for The Autumn Experiment. The above was a recap of the first full Autumn Experiment experience, On With The Show. The show combined classic whimsy with a heavy dollop of the macabre, enough to make the overall essence of the performance ripe with nostalgia for October nights gone by. The Autumn Experiment hopes to bring back that warm and fuzzy and yes, a bit scary, feeling of Halloween’s past, one story at a time, and it’s a welcome addition to an immersive theatre landscape that can sometimes rely too often on a heavy dramatic hand.
The Autumn Experiment is the collaborative effort of Drew Rausch and Jocelyn Gajeway. Find the Autumn Experiment on Instagram and visit their website at www.theautumnexperiment.com to sign up for newsletter updates so this year round celebration of Halloween doesn’t pass you by.